Reflections on a conversation with Jeremy Rose

“I’m a modern person and I like that, but I miss the other side. Tradition. But I  operate in a modern world, with its new challenges and every so often, you think about the past and you realize that there’s a part of you which is not entirely 100%, so I value religion and culture for that reason. It’s that it can make you very centered when you get to a point in your life, where you’ve achieved a lot or when you get ill. Then you get reminded that actually the deepest and most important part of cultural identity are felt when you’re at your worst.”

 (Jeremy Rose interview, 2014)

I met Jeremy for the first time on  30 September 2014 at his home in Westcliff. It was a warm September afternoon in 2014 that changed my outlook on architecture. It wasn’t a momentous incident and  I wouldn’t label it as life changing either, it was simply a meeting with an architect. A simple, humble and opinionated man by the name of Jeremy Rose.

The premise of the interview centred around competition architecture and the architect’s winning projects. This research project  would allow me to understand the thinking that goes into realizing a project and to value architecture as being more than just built form.

He spoke very intimately about his life and the various struggles that he had faced as both an architect and as an individual. It was both enlightening and overwhelming to comprehend his passion and determination that allowed him to get to this stage in his career. It was through this introspection and criticism of both himself and the competitiveness of the field that shared light on the negative side of architecture, but with a few funny stories drizzled in between to lighten the mood.

Landscape of significance | Freedom Park

“… That’s the other landscape and I’d forgotten about it, that’s the landscape of significance….. Freedom park sits as a piece of land that was part of a process…but basically the land is found and turned over to a project and declared significant…. It becomes significant because you’ve done it, that’s your connection with significance…”  ¹ (Jeremy, 2014)

Freedom Park (Image credit: Brira Aftab, 2014)

Known for his thoughtful approach to design and landscapes, Jeremy was known for creating a harmony between built form and nature. In the interview, I asked him to explain the significance that the landscape (site and context) had on his design at Freedom Park. He answered this question through various comparisons between Abu Dhabi and Salvokop. He showed how he was aware of landscapes as a key concept in his work, which separated him from other architects. This not only allowed him to create practical buildings but also landscapes that would create significance (both metaphorical or physical).


“The most important thing about the Union building is those two towers….It’s symbolic…that’s the problem with history at the university… the symbolic power of the architecture is not unpacked…”     (Jeremy, 2014)

Symbolism was a key part of Jeremy Rose’s works.  He had a tendency to saturate his work in deep symbolic meaning and significance that every South African could relate to. In the context of the interview, he spoke about how through a landscape of significance, architecture holds a certain symbolic power that can be communicated. He also criticized the lack of South African architectural history being taught at Universities, where students were not fully aware of their contexts. He believed that the process of creating good architecture was through an understanding context which in turn would allow symbolism to be adequately interpreted by the user.

Critical thinking

” Teachers are meant to be critical, but they are more critical than anyone else…Critical is a provocation, provocation is good.. Provocation for a designer is ‘Are you nuts?!’…”  (Jeremy, 2014)

Being critical is a necessary skill as an architect. We’re all inherently capable of being critical, but not all of us are able to voice our criticisms. Jeremy spoke about the need to be critical in order to not only create provocation but to understand. There is a need to provoke in order to break barriers and create a architecture that addresses issues otherwise overlooked. This sense of provocation also allowed me to define my own thesis later on.

Influence | Apartheid Museum

“The most important building that I visited was the cemetery in Igualada…”     (Jeremy, 2014)

Igualada Cemetery (Image credits:

We all have that a specific building or type of architecture that we love. The Igualada cemetery in Spain was one such place that left a deep impression on Jeremy. He spoke about his personal experience of visiting the site, where he was able to experience and immerse himself in the spaces. The admiration and awe in his voice made me aware of the immense impact that the cemetery had on himself and his architecture. It seemed like that particular trip significantly changed Jeremy’s outlook and behaviour towards his work.

Meeting  Jeremy Rose inspired and allowed me to define my own architectural pathway.  It was through this interview and crits that I was able to gain the confidence and passion to design more consciously. It had indeed been a bittersweet journey for Jeremy to get to a point in his life where he was content and proud of his work. He had yet to show us more of himself.

Apartheid Museum  (Image credits: Malika walele, 2014)

“I just turned 50, so I’m hoping to do great things.”    (Jeremy, 2014)

– Brira Aftab_Architect at Lemonpebble Architects.

–  Interview was conducted as an inspired honours student with Malika Walele, at the Rose residence on 30 September 2014.

–  Craig McClanaghan was also present for the first quarter of the interview.